A specially-formed panel on Alberta's child intervention system could exceed its deadline by half a year, says Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee.
"The panel needs the time to do their work," Larivee told reporters at the panel's latest meeting on Monday.
"Hopefully we'll have those recommendations early within the new year."
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The Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention, prompted by the 2014 death of a four-year-old girl named Serenity, first met in February.
After three months of deliberation, members in April agreed on a preliminary round of recommendations, targeting the child-in-care death review process.
A final set of recommendations was expected by Aug. 1, but in July the all-party panel extended the deadline indefinitely.
Members asked for more time to meet with Indigenous communities and leadership on reserves throughout the province, Larivee said.
"The services that are available to children who live on First Nations are so different," she said.
"They don't have access to the same services, the families don't have access to the same supports and that's one of the things the panel has committed to addressing."
Kids pay 'real consequences'
Larivee joined the panel in Edmonton on Monday for a presentation by Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.
The national organization advocates for the rights of Indigenous children, youth and families.
Blackstock urged Larivee and the province to act quickly once the panel submits its recommendations.
"Don't we owe it to every child in this country to say that you are worth the money?" Blackstock told reporters after the meeting.
"Our fundamental role as adults is to stand up and speak up for kids."
The Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention is the seventh review of children's services in Alberta since 2008.
Recommendations are not legally binding and there are no repercussions for the province if they aren't acted on.
For the sake of the 10,000 children in provincial care, Blackstock said, that can't be allowed to happen.
"There are consequences for those reports ending up on the shelf. And it's not just more taxpayer funding and more reports. The real consequences are paid by those kids," she said.
Blackstock pointed to the death of four-year-old Serenity, an Indigenous girl who died of head trauma in 2014 while in kinship care. Details of the girl's death prompted the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention.
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Larivee said the province is committed to following the panel's recommendations.
"Every single member of the legislature, no matter where they sit, was struck by that story," Larivee said about Serenity's death.
"I certainly think we were all changed by this and inspired in order to see what we can do to prevent a tragedy like that from happening again."